The High Cost of Crisco

0
142

From the car, I toted in bags of heavy groceries. I have become my mama.

Mama mostly bought staples: five-pound sacks of flour and cornmeal as well as gallon jugs of sweet milk and buttermilk.

Whenever I took her grocery shopping, she would pop outta the car and sashay toward the screen door, saying, “Ronda, bring in my groceries.”

I’d bring them in, all the while complaining, “You buy the heaviest groceries.”

The other day, I went shopping for items I believe a Southern cook should always have in her pantry: flour, cornmeal, Crisco (solid and oil), and buttermilk.

“We need to keep beans, rice, cornmeal, and flour in the freezer,” I say to Tink. “Then, no matter what comes, we can survive.”

Only someone raised in family who almost starved to death during the Civil War and the years after, and then again during Hoover Days as they called them, known otherwise as the Great Depression, would think this way. Mama and Daddy were always mindful to keep food on hand should hard times come again.

We had a summer garden, laying chickens, raised our own beef and pork and, in the early years of my life, we had a cow for milk and butter. Some of my earliest memories are of Mama picking up a tin pail and saying, “I’m goin’ to milk the cow.”

Mountain wisdom always maintained that a hundred quarts of “put up” vegetables and soup (canned in a canner) would see a family through the hardest winters.

We even had a sausage machine. Aunt Kathleen and Uncle Delbert would come over to help. They’d lay out choice cuts of pork from a hog that Daddy had recently downed, with one perfect shot, and they’d go to work.

Have you ever heard the saying, “Don’t watch sausage being made?” To me, that isn’t true. I watched it until I was grown and gone. It was good meat put into the top of a huge, cumbersome grinder, then churned out into a beautiful spiral to be made into sausage patties or one-pound packages.

The other day, while I was choosing flour and Crisco, a local preacher came down the aisle, pushing his buggy. I said, “We need stop right here and have a prayer service in this grocery aisle. How are people affording this?”

“Don’t go over to the eggs,” he cautioned.

Now at home, I was unpacking the few groceries when Tink came into the kitchen. I held up a can of Crisco, necessary for biscuit making.

“Do you know how much Crisco costs now?”

“No idea.” Not a startling answer.

“Nine dollars!”

Tink mused over it for a second before replying, “When I was growing up, we NEVER had a can of Crisco. I never saw it in a kitchen until I moved here.”

I shook my head. “I don’t believe I’d tell that if I were you.”

Tink’s mother was admirable in many ways. Her faith was steadfast. We have her worn-out Bible with numerous underlining and copious notes. The pages are falling out. She was solid. Strong.

But she wasn’t much of a cook. She fed the family mostly from store bought cans. To this day, Tink, owing to his mother’s cooking, believes that burnt toast is delicious.

“I thought about buying lard. It makes the best biscuits.” Tink shuddered. “But it was $12. We used to make lard when we killed a hog.”

There is something else Mama used to do which I, in turn, do but I’m going to be more dedicated. She saved all her bacon grease. She kept it in a container on the stove. Then, using it to fry potatoes, she’d drop a dollop into a pot of green beans and such.

I have a beautiful, colorful ceramic-lidded dish from Italy. I keep the bacon grease in that, in the fridge.

I’ll be using it more. It’s free grease.

[Ronda Rich is the best-selling author of “St. Simons Island: A Stella Bankwell Mystery.” Visit www.rondarich.com to sign up for her free weekly newsletter.